Does Christmas have roots in Pagan traditions? What was Yule, Saturnalia and do Christmas carols pre-date the Christian holiday?

CHRISTMAS is a holiday steeped in history and tradition.

Friday, 24th December 2021, 10:08 am

But you might not realise that plenty of things we associate with the festive season actually pre-date it.

Yule logs, Christmas trees, advent and more come from Pagan religions – such as pre-Christian Europe and the Roman empire.

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If you want to learn a couple of fun facts about Christmas traditions that you can roll out at dinner on December 25, then please read on!

Find out about the Pagan roots of some festive favourites!

What was Yule?

When you see the word Yule it probably conjures pictures of Christmastide and winter wonderlands – plus the titular chocolate log of course!

But it was actually a holiday in its own right that pre-dated Christmas.

It was celebrated by the Germanic peoples of Central Europe – including the Anglo-Saxons, Norse and Goths.

Yule is the modern version of one of the names for Odin.

After the Christianisation of Europe, the Yule was reformed and became Christmastide.

Yule had a number of traditions such as the Yule log, Yule signing and more.

Does Saturnalia have anything in common with Christmas?

Saturnalia was a major celebration in the Roman Empire. It was held in December and was in honour of the God Saturn.

It was celebrated with a sacrifice at the temple (this is not one of the traditions that carried over) as well as a banquet, gift-giving and all round raucous atmosphere.

Some of those traditions sure do sound familiar don’t they!

Do Christmas Carols have roots in Pagan traditions?

The Winter solstice, which is the shortest day of the year, was important to many Pagan peoples across Europe.

Songs were often sung to celebrate the solstice.

According to Classic.FM around 129AD Christianity-themed songs started to take over and replace the Pagan songs and over time these became carols.

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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